Early look at 2018: Kaine with big leads over potential GOP rivals in poll

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine has double-digit leads over three potential Republican rivals, according to a new Virginia statewide survey by the University of Mary Washington.

tim kaineKaine received the support of more than 50 percent of registered voters surveyed in hypothetical contests pitting the first-term senator against Corey Stewart, the chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors who has closely aligned himself with the so-called alt-right, and U.S. Reps. Dave Brat, whose district stretches from suburban Richmond to Culpeper, and Scott Taylor, who represents a Hampton Roads district.

Of the three GOP elected officials tested in the survey, only Stewart so far has said he is seeking his party’s Senate nomination in 2018.

The latest statewide poll of 1,000 state residents was conducted for UMW by Princeton Survey Research Associates International Sept. 5-12.

The three Republicans considered in the survey suffer from limited name recognition statewide, not surprising this far out from a potential Senate run. Among registered voters, only 25 percent said they could offer a general opinion about Stewart, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor earlier this year. People who could offer a general assessment of Stewart were split, with 11 percent offering a favorable assessment and 14 percent offering an unfavorable one.

Registered voters also were split on Brat, who has served in the U.S. House since 2014, with 9 percent offering positive and 9 percent offering negative assessments. Ten percent of registered voters were positive about Taylor, and 6 percent were negative on the first-term congressman.

For Kaine, 40 percent of registered voters offered a positive assessment and 29 percent offered an unfavorable one. In the survey, 29 percent of registered voters said they were unsure about Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate in 2016.

“The latest Mary Washington survey demonstrates that Tim Kaine remains popular in Virginia,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of its Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “But any statewide election in ‘purple’ Virginia is likely to tighten up as the contest draws nearer.”

Registered voters in the survey favored Kaine over Stewart by a 53 percent to 36 percent margin, as compared to 54-36 against Brat and 52-37 against Taylor.

Kaine, a former governor, defeated former senator George Allen in 2012 by 5.9 percentage points.

Asked which candidate they would prefer to be the Republican nominee, 20 percent of registered voters in the survey favored Taylor, 12 percent picked Stewart and 9 percent wanted Brat. Others said they were undecided.

“The Republican Party had a close nomination contest for governor this year, and these results suggest that there is an opening for an alternative to Stewart in the GOP next year,” Farnsworth said.

Virginia does not register voters by party.  Party primaries in Virginia are open to all registered voters who are not voting in a different party primary.

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